Amazon Has A Long Way To Go In Europe For Streaming

from the not-there-yet dept

It's great to see Amazon launch its music service (cloud player) in Europe. Normally we should be rejoicing the news of more competition in the user-friendly supply of digital content. However, European music and film fans have become accustomed to disappointment pretty much every time such an announcement is made for one obvious reason: you know you need to check into which handful of countries the service will actually be launched.

In the case of Amazon, the service is initially only offered in three countries: the UK, France and Germany. iTunes, similarly, had a very slow start in 2003 and dealt with 8 years of negotiations to overcome the insane hurdles the European copyright system poses. After 6 years of very gradual expansion, Spotify is nearly half way to getting there.

The snail’s pace roll out of online media services to other countries in the supposed “biggest single market in the world” is mainly due to the fragmented markets for copyright licenses. In the European Union, there are 27 different national copyright systems, one for each Member State. Each system has their own set of collecting societies, which represent the world repertoire of music exclusively for their territory.

For a music service such as Amazon’s cloud player to roll out into Europe, this means it has to negotiate licenses for each country. No pan-European licenses exist at this moment. To make matters worse, it's not just one license per country, but typically between three to seven licenses, each requiring a separate negotiation, in each territory. Terms need to be agreed with 1) several collecting societies, 2) publishers, 3) record companies and since 2005 – after an interesting EU initiative, which backfired hard – 4) with the big record companies setting up their own collective licensing companies for their publishing divisions. Multiply times 27. And try not to cry.

There is a proposal on the table, which aims to solve this chaos with multi-territorial licenses. However, as we have discussed before, there are many problems with collective rights management and the proposed legislation. It will probably take longer to officially adopt the legislation enabling multi-territorial licenses to be agreed upon than for Amazon to complete the arduous European negotiations.

Companies like Apple, Amazon and Spotify are able to pay lawyers and negotiators for these lengthy negotiations. But could a bunch of guys in a garage who have developed the (potentially) next big thing in digital content distribution accomplish the same? It is highly unlikely, and therefore a huge opportunity cost for innovation due to short sightedness.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Ninja (profile), Sep 21st, 2012 @ 4:01am

    I didn't cry, I just laughed. Welcome to the 21st century path for innovation. Sit down, grab your popcorn and laugh while absurdity and hilarity ensue.

    It wouldn't be that bad if you had only 1 deal to reach per country but as you said copyright is so damn broken everywhere that any sane person would be turned to madness if they had to deal with all the insanity in the system. How long till we have comprehensive reviews and reforms on copyright around the world? I have a hint, we'll need to wait for the lobby drivers to go out of business before attempting such reforms (I'm looking at you MAFIAA).

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Sep 21st, 2012 @ 4:09am

      Re:

      "Multiply times 27. And try not to cry."

      Actually, what is funny is that Ben makes the case why collection societies are much more efficient than having each individual company / publisher / songwriter trying to strike deals and make collection arrangements. It's all about effeciency.

      Now, since I know you hate copyright, your solution would be abolish them entirely, but that would just be allowing the users to unjustly enrich themselves without paying for their source material.

       

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        Ninja (profile), Sep 21st, 2012 @ 5:36am

        Re: Re:

        Now, since I know you hate copyright, your solution would be abolish them entirely,

        Your friend leprechauns told you that? I'm pretty much in favor of copyright as means to avoid commercial exploitation of works. COMMERCIAL exploitation.

        Actually, what is funny is that Ben makes the case why collection societies are much more efficient than having each individual company / publisher / songwriter trying to strike deals and make collection arrangements. It's all about effeciency.

        Indeed the idea could be good IF it was well implemented, something we know it isn't. Refer to https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120920/03183520447/this-is-whats-wrong-with-music-industry-music ians-have-to-pay-to-pay-themselves.shtml for further details. Sorry to crush your rosy copyright world =(

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Sep 21st, 2012 @ 8:12am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "COMMERCIAL exploitation."

          yes, and when you put your pirated rip DVD up on a torrent site full of advertising and "speedy download" offers, it's part of the commercial world.

          Basically, it's unavoidable. Even if you aren't making money on it, someone is. It's all the same in the end.

          I don't live in a rosy copyright world. I live where people respect artists and don't mind paying than a small amount to enjoy their works. We don't just take, take, take all the time.

           

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            Ninja (profile), Sep 21st, 2012 @ 9:17am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            No, no my friend. They are making money on the service they offer me. Most pirate sites index content I'm looking for (and amusingly it's not always that I download infringing content on what you call pirate sites). And it's been discussed before, the ones that charge for the downloads are really in the wrong end.

            I live where people respect artists and don't mind paying than a small amount to enjoy their works.

            Oh interesting, we live in the same world! I also go to shows and donate to the artist!

             

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        Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), Sep 21st, 2012 @ 9:29am

        Re: Re:

        Actually, what is funny is that Ben makes the case why collection societies are much more efficient than having each individual company / publisher / songwriter trying to strike deals and make collection arrangements. It's all about effeciency.

        Efficiency isn't everything.

        Sure, it's more efficient for a business to deal with a few collection societies instead of thousands of artists.

        It's also more efficient for a collection society to take in millions of dollars and then only distribute it to the biggest artists while giving nothing to the smaller artists. It's more efficient for the collection society to have a completly opaque distribution system where millions of dollars can disappear with no accountability.

        Funny that you keep harping on respect for the artists as you promote the system that outright steals actual money from nearly all of them.

        I may copy movies and music unauthorized by the copyright holder, gaining no profit to myself except for the enjoyment of the artists work. Work I would be happy to pay for if given an option to get my money directly to the artists, when given a convenient manner to enjoy the work for a reasonable price. But I don't outright steal a thing from the artists - thats for the collection societies and major labels to do. We all know who the real thieves are in this story.

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Sep 21st, 2012 @ 5:05am

      Re:

      Abolishing copyright is not really a solution to anything...

      What needs to be done is:

      1. Create an environment in which several collection societies can function in the same market without completely screwing over performers. Alternatively, find another way to fill the legitimate needs for the collection societies.

      2. Create a market where the rightholders have to supply information on who the administrating part for materials are if it is not the auther, to facilitate a way to improve licensed use of said material.

      3. Make a way to create equal opportunities in every EU country when it comes to civil court (Likelyhood of that happening anytime soon is about 0. At the moment it is 30% of the chance of ACTA getting through and getting implemented in a strict form or a far more stringent EU-court on patents than what has been pushed...).

      As soon as those 3 very harsh fundamental reforms are made, I can start to believe in it. However, since the EU-memberstates have to give up significant power to EU for each of those 3 reforms, they will need to be voted on by the people or go through the treaty agreement procedure. Votes giving a no in at least one country is almost 100 % and the thing about the international treaty procedure is its lack of specificity and the non-existing input from non-economic interest groups.

      Come to think of it, abolishing copyright is not that much of a stretch. The chance of EU-parliament abolishing copyright is probably the same as the above mentioned alternative...

       

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        Ninja (profile), Sep 21st, 2012 @ 5:46am

        Re: Re:

        Abolishing copyright is not really a solution to anything...

        I didn't know REVIEW and REFORM were synonyms to ABOLISH.

        1 - Agree.
        2 - Partially agree. There shouldn't be the RIGHTS HOLDER player. Rights should not be transferable.
        3- ACTA is pretty much dead. I'd say you need equal opportunities worldwide.

        I don't think they should be abolished. They need to be scraped and started from the beginning. As in we build a new framework that would replace the current one and this current framework would remain in place till this new one is finished.

        After implemented ALL COPYRIGHTED WORKS with more than 20 years would fall into the public domain within one year, copyrighted works with more than 10 years would be given a 1 year period to renew it for 10 more years by paying for it (proportionally to the duration left for 20 years) whereas works with less than 10 years would just fit into the new framework without any issues). Obviously the times can vary but 20 years sound like a pretty good life span for those.

        We need to very narrowly define what's considered commercial use, fair use and public domain in such new framework, take into account market disruption and social behavior.

        It is pretty clear what needs to be done in the end. As I said we need the old blind dinosaur to die and let evolution take over.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Sep 21st, 2012 @ 7:11am

          Re: Re: Re:

          I used your framework to tangent a bit.

          I generally agree with the idea of centralising copyright registration to increase the choices for the auther.

          When it comes to "right to sell" and other concepts introduced to satisfy the investor behind the product, I am having a hard time seeing how you want to give them the opportunity to protect their investment if no rights are transferable? It is probably a question of copyright being far too broad a category to be able to make good points.

           

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            Ninja (profile), Sep 21st, 2012 @ 7:26am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            It's like a house. It's yours but you can rent it. The artist could rent the rights. With contracts and so for.

            You are right in saying it's broad. Who owns the copyright of a movie? The director? The studio? That's why you need all parties to discuss. Only the studio knows who are the key roles in making a movie. Those key roles should share the copyright and probably the studio too if it has active participation in the idea.

            Maybe the scriptwriters should hold the copyright to the script (as in they could allow more than one studio to film their script) and the studio itself along with the key actors (and direction) could hold the copyright to the final result. I surely as hell am not the right person to discuss who gets which right. It's easier with music. Songwriters own the rights to the lyrics, composers to the music itself and artists to the performance. The artist itself may strike deals with the other parts for exclusivity for a while (and this would have to be discussed) but it's pretty much easier to see who owns what.

            In the end, it's something complex that needs input from all sides.

             

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      gorehound (profile), Sep 21st, 2012 @ 6:32am

      Re:

      Yes the MAFIAA who are the scumbag greedy fuckers who push bad IP & have stood in the way of Technology throughout the 20TH & now the 21ST Century.
      Player Pianos, Records, Radio, Wire Recorders, Reel to Reel Tapes, Cassettes, VHS, DAT, Internet are just some of the examples.
      Boycott these Fuckers ! Stop supporting Big Content.Do not let a dime of your money end up in their greasy palms.
      Buy & Support Local & Indie Art

       

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        Zakida Paul (profile), Sep 21st, 2012 @ 6:51am

        Re: Re:

        All that will do is give them reduced sales to blame on piracy and they will use that to push for even more draconian legislation. They would never let a silly thing like the truth get in the way.

        Do you think that wouldn't happen?

         

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    Zakida Paul (profile), Sep 21st, 2012 @ 4:30am

    It is good news but there is a problem. When I log in to amazon.co.uk and click on the cloud player it redirects to amazon.com.

    This means that none of my past purchases over the years are added to my cloud account (as advertised) and I cannot sign up because it won't accept my UK debit card. This makes the whole service utterly useless to me.

     

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    Michael, Sep 21st, 2012 @ 4:58am

    If that hypothetical 'person in a garage' did come up with the next big innovation, it would be shut down within a week and be replaced with a far more restrictive knock-off created by a major corporation. I hate to say it but he would've had a much better chance of succeeding in the pre-Napster days, back when the internet was a wonderful, albeit 56k slow, place.

     

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    TDR, Sep 21st, 2012 @ 5:47am

    The very idea of needing a license to play or stream a song is completely absurd. Music licenses are merely tools of extortion, nothing more, and should be destroyed. In a world where the supply of digital copies is infinite, pay-per-use is dead.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 21st, 2012 @ 1:41pm

    "But could a bunch of guys in a garage who have developed the (potentially) next big thing in digital content distribution accomplish the same? It is highly unlikely, and therefore a huge opportunity cost for innovation due to short sightedness."

    Yes, they probably could, unless they want to get off the ground using Big Content's catalog of popular works (which, or so it seems, most do).

     

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